Make us your home page
Instagram

Court rules for driver's manual publisher contract extension

TALLAHASSEE — The well-connected publisher of the official state driver's manual can print the handbook for another five years, a Leon County judge ruled Thursday over the objections of the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

The National Safety Commission, run by Jacksonville-area businessman Ken Underwood, has the right to a five-year extension of a contract the state wants to terminate, Judge Jackie L. Fulford wrote in a 24-page ruling.

Under his current contract, Underwood has been printing and distributing the handbook since 2005 at no cost to the state in return for the right to charge people $6.95 to ship the book and the ability to include advertisements for his driving school. The National Safety Commission was the only bidder for the work back in 2005, but the state had hoped to terminate the agreement at the end of the year, saying it wanted to start over with a clean slate.

Fulford said no.

"The contract between the National Safety Commission and the department gives National Safety Commission an unambiguous, unilateral renewal option that was properly exercised by the National Safety Commission," Fulford said in her ruling, which has been expected for months.

The department said attorneys were reviewing the ruling "to determine our next step," including whether to appeal.

Ultimately, however, it will be up to Gov.-elect Rick Scott whether to continue to pursue the case.

Underwood, who donated $35,000 to Scott's political action committee Let's Get To Work and about $5,000 to Scott's personal campaign account, doesn't expect an appeal.

"The new administration is all about cutting government waste and lowering spending," he said "Why would the new administration spend thousands of dollars in court fighting for something that they currently get for free?" Underwood asked.

The driver's handbook contract has a rocky past. In 2006, news broke that Underwood hired lobbyist Sherry Dickinson, the wife of then-highway safety director Fred Dickinson, who approved the contract. An audit said the agency should have disclosed the potential conflict.

And this year, former state Sen. Carey Baker, R-Eustis, filed legislation that would have required the state to extend Underwood's contract. The bill died in committee under intense skepticism from other lawmakers.

Information from Times files was used in this report.

Court rules for driver's manual publisher contract extension 12/03/10 [Last modified: Friday, December 3, 2010 9:57pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Pinellas licensing board asks Sen. Jack Latvala for $500,000 loan

    Local Government

    The troubled Pinellas County agency that regulates contractors wants Sen. Jack Latvala to help it get a $500,000 lifeline from the state to stay afloat.

    State Sen . Jack Latvala, R- Clearwater, is being asked to help the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board get $500,000 from the state so it can stay open beyond February.  [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  2. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally

    Business

    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  3. Tampa Club president seeks assessment fee from members

    News

    TAMPA — The president of the Tampa Club said he asked members last month to pay an additional assessment fee to provide "additional revenue." However, Ron Licata said Friday that the downtown business group is not in a dire financial situation.

    Ron Licata, president of the Tampa Club in downtown Tampa. [Tampa Club]
  4. Under Republican health care bill, Florida must make up $7.5 billion

    Markets

    If a Senate bill called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 becomes law, Florida's government would need to make up about $7.5 billion to maintain its current health care system. The bill, which is one of the Republican Party's long-promised answers to the Affordable Care Act imposes a cap on funding per enrollee …

    Florida would need to cover $7.5 billion to keep its health care program under the Republican-proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.  [Times file photo]
  5. Amid U.S. real estate buying binge by foreign investors, Florida remains first choice

    Real Estate

    Foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate recently skyrocketed to a new high with nearly half of all foreign sales happening in Florida, California and Texas.

    A National Association of Realtors annual survey found record volume and activity by foreign buyers of U.S. real estate. Florida had the highest foreign investment activity, followed by California and Texas. [National Association of Realtors]